8 Shocking Sugar Foods

5 minute read

This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) dropped a whammy on those of us with a sweet tooth. Though it admitted that this isn’t an easy goal to meet these days, the organization released new guidelines stating that only 5% of a person’s total daily calories should come from sugar. “We should aim for 5 percent if we can,” WHO nutrition direction Dr. Francesco Brana said in a news conference, “but 10 percent is more realistic.” It’s pretty easy to surpass a limit of 5% of your daily calories from sugar, which equates to about 25.8 g sugar a day for a 2,000 calorie diet. And while we all know to avoid sweets like candy and cake, you might be surprised at the other places where sugar hides. Here are some not-so-sweet foods that are surprisingly packed with sugar.


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1 cup = 97.66 g

The dehydration process for fruit gives each piece of dried fruit more sugar per volume. Sure, most of the sugar in raisins is natural, so it’s not so bad for you. But you have to be careful because some fruits are too tart when dehydrated, so manufacturers will add sugar to them to make them taste sweeter. While the sugar may not be so bad for us, the calories really add up, and you will hit your limit faster than you think. One cup has almost four times the new WHO recommended daily limit. That nutrition labels currently do not distinguish between added and natural sugars shows just how difficult it is for consumers to determine their daily intake. And you might be surprised to know that a cup of raisins has more sugar than a regular-sized McDonald’s McFlurry with M&Ms (84.81 g).

Chinese food

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1 order of orange chicken = 88.13 g

Staple American Chinese dishes like orange chicken, sweet and sour chicken, and General Tso’s chicken are actually shockingly high in sugar due to the syrupy sauces that make them delicious. A serving a orange chicken has three times the WHO recommended daily limit, and even more sugar than a regular-sized Chocolate Triple Thick Shake from McDonald’s (63.09 g).


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1 cup of Kentucky Fried Chicken cole slaw = 25.86 g

Commercial restaurant and supermarket cole slaws are so popular because they add sugar to keep customers coming back for more. A McDonald’s Warm Cinnamon Roll contains almost the same amount of sugar, 25.87 grams. So pick your sweet–or your poison.

Pasta sauce

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½ cup of Prego Chunky Garden Tomato, Onion & Garlic Italian Sauce = 10.38 g

You might think of it as a savory food, but pasta sauce contains a lot of sugar. Of course, if you make your own at home you can avoid this sugar shock–but who has time for that? Just a small serving has almost the same amount of sugar as four Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies (10.24 g).

Tomato soup

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½ cup of Campbell’s tomato soup, condensed = 10.21 g

One cup of tomato soup will bring you close to your daily sugar limit–and that’s not even counting dessert. “There is no particular reason [there’s sugar in soup] other than they want product to taste good,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet. “I think this whole only hitting 5% is unrealistic. We couldn’t even reach 10%. I think we should focus on what we should be eating and not what we shouldn’t be doing.” A serving of Campbell’s tomato soup gives you about the same amount of sugar as 3/4 cup of Chocolate Lucky Charms (10.22 g).


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Yoplait Light, Very Vanilla = 10 g

Yogurt does contain some natural sugar from the lactose, but oftentimes, when a product is low in fat, sugar is added to compensate for the loss in taste. Your yogurt breakfast could serve up as much sugar as five bite-size Keebler Rainbow Chocolate Chip Cookies (1 serving).

Frozen pizza

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An 8 oz slice of frozen cheese pizza = 7.10 g

Thanks to all that sauce on your pizza, it’s actually is a decent source of sugar in the average American’s diet. And don’t be fooled by organic pizzas that list honey on the ingredient list, warns Dr. Janet Brill, nutritionist and author of Cholesterol Down. Honey is an added sugar. Speaking of honey, this slice of pizza will cost you more sugar than a serving of Nabisco Graham Crackers (6.44 g).



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1 Tbsp of Heinz ketchup = 4 g

Sure, four grams doesn’t sound like much, but think about it–that small tablespoon really packs a sugary punch. Condiments, like BBQ sauce, can be chock full of sugar. Tomatoes can sometimes taste acidic, which is why manufactures add sugar to their product. You’re better off sugar-wise eating a Keebler sugar ice cream cone (3.43 g).

All sugar nutrition taken from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

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